From the February 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have seen how the whole structure of present-day, or any other society, rests upon and takes its shape from the property base; and now we can proceed to consider what, broadly, must he the result of the carrying out of the Socialist proposal to change the social basis from private ownership of the means necessary to satisfy the economic needs of the community to one in which these things are owned and controlled by the whole of the people.
The first and most important effect must be to abolish class distinctions. Just as, when the means of gaining a livelihood had only reached such a stage that common ownership in the land was the only form of ownership that was useful to either the community or the individual, and therefore the only form that was possible in the circumstances (i.e., when the chase offered the highest reward to human productive activity), there were no class divisions, so in the society arising from the new social base there could be no classes. Where property is owned by only some of the people, those who own are marked off from those who do not; they are a class apart, and their interests are to try their utmost to maintain and increase the advantage which their property gives them over the propertyless. In the nature of things, these endeavours are more effective if carried out collectively, hence they harden into class effort to support class interests.
But when all those things necessary for the well-being of the community cease to belong to individuals, but are owned as a single undivided instrument of production and distribution by the whole people as an organic unit, none are possessors and none have any advantage over others. Since all are in the same situation, all have the same interest, namely, to make the means of gaining the common livelihood serve with the utmost efficiency the common purpose. Society, therefore, so long rent by class divisions. founded upon unequal property conditions, at once loses its class nature with the abolition of private property, and being classless, there can be no class interests. The putting of all men and women on the same economic plane reconciles their interests, and just as those with the same interests under the class system combined to strive for the class interest, so the whole of society, having been made one by their unified interests, will combine to further the common interest. The old and bitter struggles between sections of the community, which Socialists know as class struggles, will then be known no more.
As a corollary of this abolition of economic inequality, or rather as a part of it, the wage-labour system will come to an end —that is to say, men will cease to work for wages. To-day men work for wages because they do not get an opportunity of working directly for themselves. All the instruments of labour, all the raw materials, all means by which alone men and women can gain their livelihood, are in the hands and under the control of comparatively few or the people, hence the others have no opportunity of gaining a livelihood save by placing themselves at the disposal of the possessors of the things above enumerated. It is safe to say that were there opportunity for each man and woman to work directly for himself or herself, enjoying the entire fruits of his or her labour, and without coming under the disability or uneconomic returns which must almost always accompany individual effort nowadays—if men and women could do this, I repeat, it is safe to say that none would be so foolish as to sell their labour-power to others, whose only possible object in buying it could be to make a profit out of it, that is, to give for it less than it could produce.
It is, of course, utterly impossible for such opportunity to be afforded to the individual. The very corner-stone of that development of the means of production which has resulted in such vastly increased fertility of human productive effort, is division of labour. Division of labour necessarily means also associated or social labour. The very moment we try to introduce individual labour to production generally the whole vast system of machinery comes to a standstill. Thus a dozen or so men with a modem threshing machine, can thresh corn at a tremendous pace. But if each is to be able to say “ I have threshed this corn," then they must abandon their associated labour. The engine driver must leave his engine, the pitchers must leave the stack, the sack-shifters must leave the delivery spouts, and the boy who fetches the beer must leave his social and sociable occupation, and each must take up the flail and flog.
The flail was an instrument of individual labour; the threshing-machine is an instrument of social labour. The first shows individual results, the second shows social results. The individual instrument does not afford scope for any advanced form of associated effort — a dozen men cannot use it at one time; the social-labour instrument cannot be operated by individual labour — one man cannot run a threshing machine by himself.
When, therefore, the private ownership of the means of living is abolished, men and women will cease to sell their labour-power for wages because the opportunity of obtaining their living without such sale will be opened up to them. But they will not be able to set about production each in his own way and each on his own hook. Man is largely what his means of living make him. His means of living having developed to that stage where they can only be operated by associated labour, man must, remain an associated labourer, even though he cease to be a wage labourer.
And now mark how all these things hang together. The same development of the means of production which has made them impossible of individual operation, has made them also impossible of being owned by the individuals who operate them—that is to say, individually owned by those individuals. Just as the threshing machine cannot be operated by individual labour, so it cannot be owned separately by those who operate it. They might own it jointly, but for each to own and control a portion would put an end to its efficiency as an economical instrument of labour.
But the means of production and distribution have developed even beyond the stage where they could be owned and controlled by the actual groups operating them. Even the threshing machine is not a complete productive plant in itself: it needs an engine to drive it and to draw it about. In other industries, however, the instruments of production have developed a far wider interdependence. The water supply, for instance, upon which hundreds of great concerns in manufacturing districts depend, as also the gas and electricity supplies, show quite plainly how the means of production have developed into a vast system of machinery, which , can only be efficiently owned and and controlled as a whole and by the whole community.
These things, then, must shape the character of man as a producer. When he ceases to be a wage slave he must be a worker for the community. He surrenders his labour-power to the community instead of to a boss.
A. E. Jacomb